SHIT

Firehall Arts Centre, until Feb 10th

My Two Pence

My Two Cents

By Josephine Lancaster

 

Full disclosure, I’m one of those nasty women who turns the air blue as often as polite Canadians say sorry, call it the angry Brit in me or just enthusiastic vernacular!

 

Premiering in Melbourne in 2015, Patricia Cornelius’s three-hander is pacey, humorous, unapologetic and honest. A series of snapshots in time, providing statements of the abuse, maltreatment and rejection by society, of three, what? “Transgressing women”?

 

In our current climate of “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements, SHIT touches on the pulse of reality and the prices women pay. Yes, perhaps in extremes but not uncommon, simply lesser heard of ways, unfortunately, until now.

 

The Firehall as a space, is an inviting fringe venue. Conor Moore’s basic suggestion of a setting allows for an open playing area for our characters. I did wish especially earlier on, that more of Donna Spencer’s direction and staging utilised the levels and obstacles provided. The language and performances of SHIT are so loaded with energy that at times, felt bound by static staging. More lights or a slightly different lighting rig setup would also have helped what occasionally became a very dim stage.

 

Watching on opening night, however, was a testament to how bloody solid a cast and production the Firehall has. A tireless, word-filled fifty minutes, none of these women are particularly likeable, but they are human. While I was disappointed, though not surprised, to hear no strong Aussie twang out of any of the actresses, Kayla Deorksen’s Billy, stands out as the main driving force for the play. That is no discourtesy to Sharon Crandall and Yoshié Bancroft’s Bob and Sam, more that theirs are perhaps a little less enjoyably vulgar.

 

Leaving the Firehall on Wednesday evening, I’ve not been moved to ponder the themes or messages of Cornelius’s work too closely; partly because they’re frustrations and battles I and I’d imagine every female experiences and lives with at one time or another. I was, however, for the most part enrapt, energised, and most importantly, entertained! I would counsel though, dear reader, if any of this SHIT review offended you, SHIT is not the fucking play for you.

By Emma Rossland

 

Some serious shit goes down in the Canadian premiere of Patricia Cornelius’ SHIT, put on by Firehall Arts Centre. It consists of a cast of three cantankerous women with foul mouths and bad attitudes, and yet you can’t help but love them as they show you glimpses of lives filled with abuse and the struggle to deal with hopeless situations.

 

Cornelius’ script is a mix of dialogue and monologues that tell stories of hardship. There’s a rhythmic quality to the text that mostly works to set a powerful pace for the show. The dialogue, especially in the first scene, is amazingly done with one character jumping in as soon as another finishes speaking, capturing the audience’s attention. The monologues take the actors through a range of emotions as they share their stories and will have you close to tears. There are some instances, however, where the rhythm does not fit quite as well as in others.  

The scenes are separated by short intervals of the characters making faces, dancing, and running through the set, which at first seems to have little meaning. They appear to be inserted to relieve the serious nature of the majority of the scenes and lighten the tone of the play. The end, however, reveals the hidden significance of these short intervals, making them in retrospect ingenious.

 

I had been a bit apprehensive that there would be too much foul language. Not that I’m against it, I just feel that there needs to be a reason for it and not just swearing for the sake of it. While these women do not listen when told “watch your mouth” it’s with a purpose. The very first scene addresses their profuse swearing and also comments on society’s reaction to their foul mouths. The opening scene not only makes the ample cursing justified but also lets the audience know it’s ok to laugh. During the more serious scenes there are still humorous moments and this opening scene makes the audience comfortable with laughing later on.

 

One negative aspect was that some parts seemed a bit contrived. I mentioned the rhythm of the speech seeming a little off in places, but what bothered me more was the fight. It was clearly staged and looked like the actors were just going through the motions. I know fight scenes are difficult, but from where I was sitting it looked completely unrealistic.

 

Other than this one criticism, the show was outstanding. All three characters are portrayed uniquely, each with a different messed up story. Billy, played by Kayla Deorksen, is a woman with a tough exterior which provides her with much needed protection. Deorksen plays the role perfectly from her intonation to her movement. Watch her do 20 pushups and have a conversation without breaking a sweat. Yoshié Bancroft, who plays Sam, excellently portrays a woman who has been a victim throughout her life yet keeps dreaming and hoping. And finally, Sharon Crandall plays Bob, a woman who, perhaps, was never meant to be a woman. Crandall’s transformation into Bob is remarkable. She appears to be much larger on stage than she really is. This is in due part to baggy costuming and to the way she uses the physical space around her. All three actors go through emotional roller-coasters and bring the audience along for the ride.      

 

50 minutes is the perfect length for a show with such rapid-fire dialogue and intense emotions. Any longer and actors and audience alike would begin to feel exhausted. This show is short but powerful. I definitely recommend it, as long as you don’t mind a whole lot of shit thrown at you.